Morgan, known for Passion, a novel about the Romantic poets, tackles the melodramatic lives of the composer Hector Berlioz and his wife/muse Irish actress, Harriet Smithson. Her portrait of their turbulent marriage includes details of the social and political
backdrop of the era. Morgan's fine
eye for history and character make
for a haunting, memorable novel.
In 1827, Harriet Smithson joins an English Shakespearean acting troupe touring France where Berlioz worships her from afar. When they meet five years later, he fervently courts her and she is wooed into
marriage. His obsession with her
leads to a downward spiral of madness. This is not a marriage made in heaven, but one crafted out of fixation that leads to the creation of the marvelous "Symphonie Fantastique" and tragedy. (St. Martin's, Dec., 354 pp., $24.95)